Bestselling author Judy Blume has extended her literary prowess to a new project and opened an independent bookstore in Florida, while embarking on a professional gap year.
The author, 78, who penned classic children's stories including Blubber and Forever, took a step back from writing to open the nonprofit store with her husband, George Cooper, in February.
"I was going to relax and read and have this whole time with no pressure. And then bingo – the chance comes along to open a bookshop, and there you go," she told The Guardian. "I guess I like that in my life … To learn something new like this, at 78, makes it all the more exciting.
"It’s like Christmas every day, working here."
The store, named Books & Books @ Key West, is "doing better than anyone thought [it] could do", with customers regularly popping in to get a recommendation from Blume.
"I’m pretty good at recommendations – I’m good in the kids’ department for sure," Blume said. "I read all the picture books when they come in. And I can lead people to what they want, although I’ve not read as many of our books as some of our volunteers."
And Blume believes the success of the store is due to a growing thirst from customers to visit a real bookstore, rather than simply purchasing their books online.
"I just think people are so hungry for a real bookstore again," she said. "So many people live in places where there isn’t one … It’s not just us doing well. A lot of independent booksellers are.”
The store has certainly opened at the right time: figures from the American Booksellers Association showed sales from independent booksellers were up 10% last year, whilst here in the UK, 2015 saw a rise in the sale of printed books for the first time in four years. In comparison, sales of ebooks in the UK dropped for the first time in seven years last year, according to the Publisher's Association.
Having sold over 80 million of her own books worldwide, Blume had always planned to take a break after writing her latest novel, In The Unlikely Event, which she described as a "very long and difficult and complicated" writing process.
After In The Unlikely Event was published in June last year, Blume and her husband partnered with Mitchell Kaplan, the founder of independent chain Books & Books, to open the new store in Key West.
The pair had been asking Kaplan to open a bookshop in the area for years and, now that she has realised her dream, Blume described her new role "a very satisfying experience" and one that she is "enjoying so much".
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